eddinger-todd paris in contempt-mug

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette and Holly Fesperman LeeSalisbury Post
A Rowan County District Court judge held a local attorney in contempt Wednesday for reading a men’s magazine during a court session, according to a contempt order filed in the Rowan County Clerk of Court’s Office.
Judge Kevin Eddinger found Salisbury attorney Todd Paris in contempt after he saw Paris reading a Maxim magazine with “a female topless model” on the cover, according to the order.
When Eddinger gave Paris a chance to respond, he apologized and “stated in his view the magazine was not pornography, was available at local stores and that he did not intend contempt,” the order said.
Eddinger fined Paris $300, gave him a 15 day suspended jail sentence that remains in effect for a year and placed him on unsupervised probation, according to the order.
Paris said Thursday he didn’t want to comment. He explained that David Bingham, the state Bar Association counselor for attorneys in this area, is in Chapel Hill until Monday. Paris said he promised Bingham he wouldn’t say or do anything about the matter until Bingham returned
Eddinger wrote in the order that “The contemnor’s (Paris) conduct interrupted the proceedings of the court and impaired the respect due its authority. In addition, the contemnor’s actions were grossly inappropriate, patently offensive, and violative of Rule 12 of the General Rules of Practice. Courtroom staff, law enforcement, members of the Bar and the general public shall be able to conduct courtroom business in an atmosphere free of the display of offensive material as demonstrated by the contemnor, thus necessitating this action.”
No Rowan County court officials wanted to comment on the record about the incident Thursday.
According to a police officer who was in Eddinger’s courtroom Wednesday, Paris came in after the lunch break and sat down on the front bench behind the assistant district attorney’s desk.
(Marcus Wilson, the assistant district attorney in the courtroom, said he didn’t want to comment on the incident.)
Paris placed a stack of case paperwork on the bench beside him and started looking at the Maxim magazine even as Eddinger was hearing cases.
Several police officers who were nearby noticed the magazine, and one officer observed, “He’s got to be crazy to have that in court.”
According to one of the officers, Eddinger observed Paris for several minutes. Then he called Paris to come to the bench and bring the magazine.
Paris asked to go outside and discard the magazine. Eddinger refused to let him leave and demanded the magazine.
Paris told the judge repeatedly that the publication does not include nudity or pornography.
When he added that he had the cover folded over so no one could see it, Eddinger responded, “No, you didn’t. I could see it from up here.”
Paris then told the judge that an assistant district attorney had brought it to his attention. Eddinger responded that he had been sitting there watching from the bench.
“Nobody told me. I could plainly see it,” Eddinger told Paris, according to the police officer.
When the judge warned Paris that he could be held in contempt of court, the attorney began asking Eddinger to continue his clients’ cases.
The officer said Paris did not appear to take the situation seriously, and Eddinger called a 10-minute recess.
When the judge returned to the bench, Paris tried again to justify having the magazine in court, saying the magazine belonged to his girlfriend and asking Eddinger to look at the mailing label.
Paris also said he has taken similar magazines into courtrooms in other counties and never had a problem.
At some point, Paris read some of the captions under the pictures, which the officer described as explicit.
The officer said many people in the courtroom couldn’t understand what was going on.
Eddinger then showed the magazine from the bench, with the crowd erupting in laughter.
Eddinger then sentenced Paris to 15 days in the Rowan County Detention Center, suspending it for one year of probation, and ordered him to pay a $300 fine and court costs.
He handed the magazine to the clerk and identified it as exhibit A for the contempt case.
Eddinger than continued the remainder of Paris’ cases.